CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Speaker Bill O’Brien today threw out the New Hampshire constitution in an unprecedented power grab aimed at ramming an unpopular redistricting plan down the throats of the people of New Hampshire without warning.
“Bill O’Brien’s actions today are a corruption of our constitution and the legislative process,” Representative Terie Norelli, Democratic House Leader, said. “The House is scheduled to meet tomorrow. Bill O’Brien could have obeyed the constitution and still have had a timely vote on the governor’s veto. This was a tyrannical abuse of power.”
Article 44 of the New Hampshire constitution says that the bills vetoed by the governor should be entered into the body’s journal proceeding an override vote.
O’Brien today interrupted today’s House session – kicking out Democrats and the Public – to hold a last-minute secret caucus to present a legal opinion that he said allowed him to override the New Hampshire constitution and centuries of New Hampshire House tradition.
Democratic Leadership was not even provided with a copy of the legal opinion before the vote.
When Democrats, after learning of the Speaker’s plan, asked for 15 minutes to caucus, O’Brien denied their request.
The House redistricting is widely unpopular and Republican and Democratic leaders in communities across the state called on Gov. John Lynch to veto it. It violates a 2006 amendment to the New Hampshire constitution – overwhelming approved by the people of New Hampshire – that requires communities get their own representatives in the New Hampshire House whenever possible.
Other plans—including plans offered by Republican representatives – have been offered that would have satisfied the New Hampshire constitution.
“Governor Lynch’s veto of this unconstitutional House Redistricting Plan is the right decision. This veto is not partisan; the Republican Mayor of Manchester, the Democratic Mayor of Concord, and numerous Town Selectboards have been outspokenly opposed to this plan. It denies several of our towns and cities the representation to which they are entitled under Part II, Article 11 of the New Hampshire Constitution. And today Speaker Bill O’Brien, with his abuse of power, denied those elected officials a chance to come to Concord and be heard,” Norelli said.
“Several Republican State Representatives have offered plans that would have complied with the New Hampshire Constitution and federal requirements, and House Democrats supported those plans – because this should not be a partisan issue. Inexplicably, Speaker O’Brien does not want to adopt any of those plans, even though his refusal violates our constitution,” Norelli said.
“We remain committed to working with Republicans to pass a compromise plan which follows the will of New Hampshire voters as expressed in the 2006 constitutional amendment. I hope that the Senate votes to sustain the Governor’s veto so we can work out a compromise plan or else this unconstitutional plan will undoubtedly head to the Courts,” Norelli said.